Generation Delusional? Millennials expect to retire at age 56, study says

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There was the Lost Generation and the Silent Generation. The G.I. Generation and the MTV Generation. Could Millennials be Generation Delusional?

The evidence seems to suggest that. Omaha-based brokerage firm T.D. Ameritrade asked 1,500 Millennials — those aged 21 to 37 — when they expect to retire. Respondents, on average, expected to retire at age 56.

That is wishful thinking for multiple reasons. Currently, the average age of retirement is 63 in the U.S., according to census figures. But that number has been rising since a low in the 1980s. According to MarketWatch, the retirement age has increased to levels not seen since the 1960s — and it's only expected to get higher.

About half of working households today are at risk of not having "enough" to maintain their living standards in retirement, The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found.

The dreary outlook for future retirees is a result of rising health care costs, increased life expectancy (the more years you live, the more money you must save), and a Social Security reserve lacking in funding. Forecasters predict the Social Security reserve to be depleted between 2030 and 2034, according to the Brookings Institute. This may incentivize legislators to raise the full retirement age beyond 66, the age at which it is currently set.

Unless a startup somehow figures out a way to "disrupt" retirement, Millennials can expect to work well into their golden years.

But wait, there's more. The same T.D. Ameritrade survey-takers also reported having immense debt. Nearly half reported credit card debt, 40 percent said they have car loans and 36 percent are still paying of student loans. And, lest we forget, buying a house is becoming even more difficult. One study estimated Millennials to pay more than double what their parents paid in rent. 

According to the survey, the average Millennial expects to become completely financially independent from his or her parents by age 25, the same year they secure a job in their chosen field. Five years later, they expect to buy a house.

Michelle Robertson is an SFGATE staff writer. Email her at or find her on Twitter at @mrobertsonsf.